Framing Charlotte’s Cultural Portrait with Culture Initiative


Last week HappeningsCLT sat down with, Joel Andrew Tracey to talk about the group’s 6th Anniversary Frames event coming up this Saturday night (8pm) at the Chop Shop and about the Culture Initiative in general. What we learned was – there is a lot going on in Charlotte’s Art scene that only a few people know about… and the Culture Initiative board is working hard to connect all of it.

So… What is it exactly?
CI6: Frames is a showcase of a plethora of art forms and an environment being carefully crafted to offer you unique art experience from the minute you walk in the door and begin your journey around the Chop Shop.


Walls up! photo by Fenix Photography

There are more than 80 visual artists presenting work, not to mention installation artists, music contemporary dance, fashion, and, naturally, ramen noodles. Yes, there is even a pop up ramen café because you will need some sustenance to make it through ALL. THIS. ART.

Actually, let’s get down to brass tacks here: to date there are 93 displaying artists in the frames showcase, all bringing two pieces each. Can you multiply?  That is 186 pieces of art. If that wasn’t enough there are three large scale installation pieces, live mannequins featuring costume and wearable art, a merchant market, and some smooth jams to keep you vibing through the space all night long, including guest MC’s and Producers Cesar Comanche from Raleigh and Dillon from Atlanta. I’m thinking this is going to be a major sensory overload event that is not to be missed.


Cesar Comanche the Entertainer

We’ve said it once, or twice: BUY LOCAL

Also… you need to know that art in CI:6 is for sale, so while the point of the event is to generate excitement within the community what is being produced here, it also is an opportunity for people to buy art and put it up in their homes. This showcase will feature art that is ready to hang. This will be the connecting factor is what will drive the aesthetic of the show – it will be the unifying element. I know the Happenings crew will be there buying local. (btw Valentine’s day is coming up and literally nothing makes a better gift than art.)

The inspiration for the theme of Frames organically grew out of previous experience. For the last two years, the events have challenged artists to hunt in local antique stores to find objects that they could breathe life back into while still expressing their styles and interest. This proved to be a positive way to stimulate the local economy and promote an idea of sustainability, so we sent people out again, this time thinking of reclaiming the idea of frames.


Art by Greg Carter

Where does all this stuff come from?



I asked Tracey where he gets all of these artists from, (click here for the full list) expecting him to say that there was an open call. But I was surprised to find out that most of these connections come from word of mouth and social networking, many artists are returning from previous years to participate again. There is no application process, so if you want to participate in the next one, come to the event, meet some cool people, and make it happen.

“I think it’s important to give everyone a chance to participate in the community.  No matter the skill level, we welcome creatives who have a passion for creating something beautiful.  How else will you progress as a creative? “ – Joel Andrew Tracey


@ramencentral – an artful bowl

More about the Culture Initiative:

Almost a decade ago, after connecting as local DJ’s, Tracey met Arthur Brouthers and they decided they wanted to bring something fresh and different to the scene. Something that would bring together music and the visual art in a positive social environment. They were tired of hearing people complain about charlottes cultural offerings and yet not making an efforts to improve it. Gallery crawls were more about the bars than the art, and galleries were beginning to close… so they decided to create their own space to reach out to the art community.

And CI was born.  Since 2009, this group has grown into a 7 member board, and they have through the years played an integral part in keeping the localized and grassroots level art stimulated. The events offer a challenge by giving the creative who participate particular themes and deadlines to work with.  It creates an environment where individual artists get motivated and excited about creating in our community.

Tracey also sees the CI as a brand, and as a talented creative and graphic designer himself, is inspired by the idea of a labor union and the whole idea of a group working together for the good of their members.  He says, “They work together to ensure that their needs are met and they have a voice.  So when developing CI, I kinda viewed it as this artist union.  Artist for Artist.”  

Next up for the CI is obtaining 501c3 non profit status and developing a community arts center that facilities appreciation and development for the younger talent.  There needs to be a place for artists who graduate school but aren’t quite at the level of getting their art into a prominent institution, or getting gallery representation, or those who enjoy the craft more than the certification, or even those that just enjoy making art.

“We want to be there for the arts community to create and give this city something to be proud of.  Because Charlotte really does have a lot.”

Happenings couldn’t agree with you more, CI… If you’re reading this and you want to know more about the arts in Charlotte, check out CI and Happenings on Facebook – but don’t just stop there, go out to an event that we promote and talk to a real person. Be a part of the community and let’s keep this unity growing.

One thought on “Framing Charlotte’s Cultural Portrait with Culture Initiative

  1. Pingback: This Week – February 9-15 | HappeningsCLT

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